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Best DSLR cameras

Best DSLR camera: Image shows man using DSLR next to lake
(Image credit: Getty)

DSLRs are probably the most popular types of digital cameras in the photography industry, taking the lead after analogue SLRs went out of fashion in the early to mid 2000s. Now though, there’s a new paradigm with modern mirrorless cameras pushing technology further and offering some advances over DSLR models. 

However, the heritage and well-established builds of DSLRs have led to some of the most reliable and durable imaging cameras in the world. So while they may be slowly surpassed by mirrorless, they’re certainly still a viable option either for beginner or professional photographers. They also still rank highly in our guide to the best cameras for astrophotography, so we definitely think they're well worth the money.

If you're looking to buy your very first camera, we'd recommend you have a look through our round-up of the best beginner cameras before reading the below. But if you've got your heart set on a DSLR, then read on. 

Best overall

Nikon D850 camera body

(Image credit: Nikon)

A complete powerhouse of a DSLR that outcompetes plenty of modern mirrorless cameras

Specifications
Sensor details: 35.9 mm x 23.9 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 45.7MP
Lens mount: F-mount FX
Screen details: 3.2” LCD, 2359K dots
Max burst speed: 9FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
Reasons to buy
+Insane stills resolution+Blisteringly fast autofocus 
Reasons to avoid
-Face AF not as sophisticated as eye AF-9FPS only possible with MB-D18 battery pack 

A step up from the D780 mentioned below, the D850 model really cranks up the detail, shooting 45.7MP stills photos at up to 9FPS (albeit only with the dedicated battery grip). That might not sound as high as some of the other cameras on this list, but one has to bear in mind that this is 9FPS of full resolution stills images at 45.7MP — so these images are huge.

Equally capable of capturing stills and video, the D850 also shoots 4K UHD for any hybrid shooters that require the ability to quickly switch between both modes. Extensively weather sealed, even the battery grip is protected from the elements, making this a DSLR you can truly take anywhere in the world without worry.

Best for hybrid photographers

Nikon D780

(Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon D780

This lowlight and video monster is perfect for hybrid professional shooters that need to keep up with the action

Specifications
Sensor details: 35.9 mm x 23.9 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 24.5MP
Lens mount: F-mount FX
Screen details: 3.2” LCD, 2359K dots
Max burst speed: 12FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
Reasons to buy
+High 12FPS burst speed+Astounding results in low light and astro+Large, detailed rear LCD monitor 
Reasons to avoid
-Middling stills resolution 

Superseding the ground-breaking behemoth the D750, the Nikon D780 builds on its predecessor and adds a more detailed rear screen with a massive 2359K dots, a huge maximum burst speed of 12FPS (which is ideal for wildlife, sports, and action photography) and shoots 4K UHD video with 10-bit N-log recording and 12 stops of dynamic range.

A lowlight master, this model's ISO can be expanded to 204800 and it has impeccable noise reduction algorithms to keep images clean. An additional lowlight specific autofocus ability can drop the camera's autofocus range for accurate AF as low as -7EV when live view is engaged.

Best for action photography

Canon EOS 90D

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon EOS 90D

This APS-C DSLR shoots fast and with exquisite detail making it perfect for sports or action

Specifications
Sensor details: 22.3mm x 14.8mm CMOS
Megapixels: 32.5MP
Lens mount: EF, EF-S
Screen details: 3” LCD, 1040K dots
Max burst speed: 10FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
Reasons to buy
+Stunning all-round stills and video performance +Analogue lovers will appreciate optical viewfinder 
Reasons to avoid
-Buffer quite slow for 10FPS -Only 4K UHD video resolution 

Crop sensor DSLRs benefit from the perceived extra zoom afforded by the 1.5/1.6x effective crop and that’s exactly where Canon’s capitalizing on this camera. The longer effective focal length and huge 10FPS maximum burst speed are complemented by a whopping 32.5MP CMOS image sensor to bring far-away subjects closer than ever before.

It would be nice to see 4K DCI on this camera but 4K UHD more than keeps up with the rest of its class here. A 220,000 RGB and IR metering sensor powers the iTR focus tracking, which allows you to keep fast-moving subjects sharp even while moving the camera.

Best for durability and speed

Canon 5D Mark IV

(Image credit: Canon)

A pro-level powerhouse, this is the best choice for any working photographers who need reliability and speed

Specifications
Sensor details: 36 x 24 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 30.4MP
Lens mount: EF (excludes EF-S, EF-M lenses)
Screen details: 3.2” LCD 1620K dots
Max burst speed: 7FPS
Max video resolution: 4K DCI
Reasons to buy
+Pro-level image quality+Excellent autofocusing system 
Reasons to avoid
-Too expensive for beginners-Big and heavy full frame camera 

Despite now being five years old the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV was and still is the choice of many professional photographers around the globe. A powerful all-rounder, it captures 30.4MP stills and shoots 4K DCI video for cinema-like movie quality. 

A large, detailed rear screen complements the bright optical viewfinder and peripherals can be attached with USB 3.0, HDMI out, and headphone outputs. Its connectivity is what makes it truly versatile as there’s also a microphone input for external mics, a flash connection port and for wireless shooting and image transfer there’s WiFi and NFC technology built into the camera.

Best rugged option

Canon EOS 6D Mark II

(Image credit: Canon)

A solid camera with good weathering sealing for use in inclement weather

Specifications
Sensor details: 35.9 x 24.0 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 26.2MP
Lens mount: EF (excludes EF-S, EF-M lenses)
Screen details: 3” LCD, 1040K dots
Max burst speed: 6.5FPS
Max video resolution: Full HD
Reasons to buy
+Small form factor for full frame+Good Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity 
Reasons to avoid
-Lacking 4K video recording-Dynamic range could be better 

The Canon EOS 6D Mark II is somewhat of a benchmark DSLR for Canon, sitting right in the middle between entry-level models and more expensive professional models. Users now pushing the limits of what they can do with entry-level versions can take advantage of the integrated weather and dust sealing and take advantage of slightly elevated burst shoot speeds up to 6.5FPS.

The Dual Pixel CMOS AF adjusts focus smoothly when shooting video and there’s a five axis digital image stabilization to keep handheld shooting steady. Sadly movie resolution tops out at 1920 x 1080/60p which is the only real let down to an otherwise great intermediate level camera, however, it can capture 4K time lapses thanks to the 26.2MP image resolution.

Best for intermediate photographers

Nikon D7500

(Image credit: Nikon)

Nikon D7500

This flagship DX Nikon DSLR shoots video and stills equally brilliantly

Specifications
Sensor details: 23.5 mm x 15.7 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 20.9MP
Lens mount: F-mount DX
Screen details: 3.2” LCD, 922K dots
Max burst speed: 8FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
Reasons to buy
+Inexpensive crop sensor DSLR body+Wide ISO sensitivity range 
Reasons to avoid
-Low stills resolution-Tilting rear screen sometimes restrictive 

Engineered for photographers starting to get serious about photography, the D7500 is Nikon’s flagship DX (crop sensor) camera body. Its large, 3.2” rear tilting LCD is touchscreen sensitive, making it ideal for awkward shooting angles without the need for a tripod.

It’s suitable for some sports and wildlife photography thanks to the 8FPS maximum burst speed and the 20.9MP CMOS image sensor is more than enough to shoot 4K UHD video. Good weather sealing makes this suitable for shooting in all weathers, as it's protected from water and dust ingress.

Best for beginners

Canon EOS Rebel SL3

(Image credit: Canon)

Canon EOS Rebel SL3/ Canon EOS 250D

A high quality APS-C image sensor and small form factor make this an ideal camera for beginners

Specifications
Sensor details: 22.3 mm x 14.9 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 24.1MP
Lens mount: EF and EF-S mount
Screen details: 3” LCD, 1040K dots
Max burst speed: 5FPS
Max video resolution: 4K UHD
Reasons to buy
+Good stills and video resolution+Billed as world’s lightest DSLR with movable screen 
Reasons to avoid
-Limited AF points when using optical viewfinder-Maximum burst speed is average 

While there are cheaper entry-level crop sensor cameras, the Canon EOS Rebel SL3 / 250D is the best of the bunch with a 24.1MP CMOS sensor and DIGIC 8 image processor that produces vivid, clean photos. Unfortunately, there are only nine autofocus points across the viewfinder but engaging the live view option on the rear screen improves this to 143 via camera automatic selection.

It’s also relatively handy in low light thanks to the -4EV autofocus working range and maximum expanded ISO sensitivity of 51200, especially when combined with a lens that has image stabilization built in.

Best entry-level Nikon

Nikon D3500

(Image credit: Nikon)

A solid entry-level Nikon for beginners provides detailed images and Full HD movie recording

Specifications
Sensor details: 23.5 mm x 15.6 mm CMOS
Megapixels: 24.2MP
Lens mount: F-mount DX
Screen details: 3” LCD, 921K dots
Max burst speed: 5FPS
Max video resolution: Full HD
Reasons to buy
+Small and lightweight design+Inexpensive solution for beginners 
Reasons to avoid
-Limited to Full HD video resolution-Fixed rear screen is limiting 

Nikon’s cheapest DSLR feels comfortable in the hand with a solid, deep grip that feels legitimately professional. Its APS-C CMOS sensor kicks out a whopping 24.2MP stills resolution which isn’t to be sniffed at for this entry-level beauty.

While movie recording is limited to Full HD at 60FPS, dynamic range is good and the rear LCD is large (3 inches) and bright with 921K dots providing plenty of detail. Paired with one of the myriad DX zoom lenses, especially one that has Vibration Reduction, and anyone new to photography should be able to get great snaps immediately.

Summary

From excellent entry-level cameras perfect for the budget-conscious or beginner photographer, through to high-end professional models, and everything in between we’ve rounded up the very best DSLRs you can buy right now.

Pay close attention to your requirements and ensure you seek out a camera to suit your needs. Whether that’s high resolution stills imaging, a wide dynamic range, or crisp 4K video recording. It’s equally important to remember that lens choice is an important factor when choosing any interchangeable lens camera so take a look at the suite of lenses available as well before purchasing your favorite camera.

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Jason Parnell-Brookes

Jason Parnell-Brookes is an Internationally award-winning photographer, educator and writer. He won Gold in the Nikon Photo Contest 2018/19 and was named Digital Photographer of the Year in 2014. Jason is a qualified teacher, Masters graduate and works with many high profile international clients.